Close score at Cambridge
Royal Navy Senior XV
The Royal Navy Senior XV continued their march towards the Inter-Service campaign travelling to Cambridge University Rugby Club on Wednesday. The Light Blues, who had been successful at Twickenham against their varsity rivals, Oxford, were definitely up for the challenge in what was their final game of the season. Having been defeated by both the British Army and the Royal Air Force, the students bolstered their squad by fielding 13 of the 15 players that had earned their Blue at Twickenham in December.
Cambridge started brightly from the kick off and exerted early dominance inside the Royal Navy 10 metre line. Under pressure in defence the Royal Navy worked hard however gave away a succession of penalties which led to Cambridge being camped out inside the Royal Navy 22. Cambridge attacked hard but were denied, being held up over the line. From the resultant scrum, Cambridge stretched the Royal Navy defence and managed to score in the corner to take an early lead. The conversion was unsuccessful, 5 - 0.
From the restart the Senior XV began to get a foothold into the match. They had good phases of play and managed to stretch the Cambridge defence however all too often they were let down by unforced handling errors, which gave the ball back to Cambridge who were able to gain territory. The Navy dominated the set piece, especially at the scrum and were able to place lots of pressure on the Cambridge feed whilst allowing quick ball from their own scrum. The line out was also an area of strength. Good line out ball was followed by a dominant rolling maul which caused the Cambridge defence to scramble, however the ball was turned over and cleared to put the pressure back on the Royal Navy. There followed some sustained pressure by the home team and the penalty count against the Royal Navy was mounting up resulting in a final call by the referee. Cambridge, instead of opting for a safe 3 points, nudged the ball into touch and from the line out the Light Blues outside-centre ran a delightful line to score under the posts. With the conversion successful Cambridge extended their lead to 12 points, 12 - 0.
The visitors re-exerted themselves and the tide seemed to turn. Now it was Cambridge who were infringing. The Navy were starting to play some attractive running rugby, and found themselves on the score card. The attacking line out was won, the drive tied in the Cambridge defence and good handling in the backs allowed Welling to score right in the corner. 2 points were added by Humphrey with a fantastic conversion and the Navy went into half time trailing 12-7.
The Dark Blues started the 2nd half the way they finished the 1st with possession and territory. Another attacking line out was won and Cambridge were unable to withstand the constant pressure being exerted by the Navy and team captain, Priddey scored to level the match at 12 - 12.
Cambridge bounced right back and having won the restart took play into the Royal Navy 22 and after 4 phases of play, burrowed their way over the line to retake the lead 17-12, again the conversion was missed.
The next 20 minutes were evenly matched with both teams creating half chances but unable to convert the pressure due to unforced errors. The Cambridge team began to gain the upper hand and the referee finally lost patience with the Navy and the open side, Trehan, was yellow carded. The Royal Navy were defending hard and it was testament to their defensive effort that they managed to repel all that was thrown at them. Then it went from bad to worse for the Senior XV with 15 minutes to play when their replacement Raumakita was harshly shown a yellow card for a high tackle. With the Royal Navy down to 13 men, the spaces really began to open up for the home team. Large gaps were appearing as the Navy defence was over-stretched. Again, some valiant defending by the Senior XV; impressively they managed to not concede any further score whilst they were reduced to 13 players.
Cambridge having been frustrated by the dogged defence of their opposition however did manage to score in the corner in the dying minutes to further extend their lead 22 - 12.
The Royal Navy dug deep and showed their determination and pushed hard to end the game on a high. Solid possession and good straight running broke down the Cambridge defence and Rees, the replacement scrum half, managed to get over the line to reduce the deficit, with the conversion successful the scores were 22-19. Unfortunately for the Royal Navy the time had run out and that was the final action of the game.
There were plenty of positives for the Royal Navy, 2 players (Mason and Jones) made their first team debut. 26 players were used and there is clearly strength in depth in all positions.
Team List: Jones, Priddey (c), Owen, Staniforth, Harvey, Fox, Trehan, Kava, Moore, Loydall, Dimmock-Williams, Basher, Buinimasi, Welling, Humphrey. Replacements: Hughes, Warner, Mason, Cooper, Griggs, Myers, Burton, Raumakita, Rees.
Words by T Westwood
Images Royal Navy Rugby Union / © John Walton